Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The wonder of it all

Forgive me, friends, if I get soft and sappy here. Today was a really great day for me. I worked out for 90 minutes, did things around the house, got Lilah at school and took her shopping until dinner. I made dinner, cleaned it all up, tidied for the cleaners, put her to bed. And I'm still standing. Tired, but standing. That, friends, is what being NORMAL is all about.

And having just put Lilah to bed and after having filled her Advent calendar with chocolate treats, I'm sitting here misty. And full of happiness and calm. I'm content. As I was putting away the leftover candy, tidying the kitchen, and thinking of crawling into bed with a book just now, it dawned on me . . . I'm at peace with all of this tonight. With the second cancer, with the mastectomies, with where I am right now. It's all OK, I'm going to be OK, and despite all the mess of the spring, summer and fall, I'm still so damn lucky and blessed.

Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm sure there'll be times where I rail against it again. Bad days, days when I'm reminded of my limits, some day when I have to get these tires changed . . . but at the bottom, I'm still myself, I still have my life, and I'm feeling good enough again to really, truly, just get on with things.

I also feel certain that something new and interesting and good is going to come of Cancer Round II. Yesterday and today, I started to really drill down on what I wanted to do to delineate pre- and post-op. Doesn't have to be major . . . it's just that I can't have gone through this and, well, just go back to laundry and carpooling like it never went down. (Not that it isn't every woman's dream to launder and carpool.) So whether it'll be an intensive cooking class, or breaking into the speaking circuit more formally, or taking Semi-Sweet to new and different places, or overcoming my fear of clipping in and becoming a serious cyclist, or writing that book I keep toying with - it'll be something.

But for this moment, I'm going to wallow in contentment. Enjoy the Christmas season, conjure up surprises to delight my daughter, conspire with her to delight my husband, feel the rush and the crush of holiday preparations and celebrate being healthy and able-bodied again.

Me again!



P.S. Tomorrow, I start back with my beloved Pilates instructor . . . 2 milestones in two days? Mind-blowing.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A true Thanksgiving

What I'm thankful for:

a second, second chance
doing little things for my girl that make her insanely happy/excited
strong, hot organic Chinese gunpowder green tea
my unrelentingly supportive husband
connecting with random strangers over breast cancer
putting my hair in a ponytail
browsing Target
reaching for things on high shelves
Chinese food
the smell of fresh-cut grass
my spunky daughter
waving my arms in the air
Wii Just Dance
the beach
watching the seasons change
looking just the same as I always did, with clothes on
social media
poring over food porn
taking care of my family
nachos made in the microwave
listening to loud music in my car
micro ice cream sundaes from Rancatore's
being able to dance again (but not so much in public)
the smell of crisp fall air
good neighbors
hot soup
having the energy to do more than one activity in a day
Ellen DeGeneres
cooking delicious meals
the mundane tasks of daily life
hard cardio to loud pop music
the loving support of friends - old, medium & new
Bobbi Brown creamy concealer
the loving support of virtual strangers
warm zucchini muffins with raisins and walnuts
long, shiny hair that's mine to keep
spin class
roast chicken
a shot at seeing my daughter grow up
belly laughing
the knowledge that every single thing in life is temporary
about a million, bagillion other things

I hope that all of you can find something to be thankful for tomorrow, and every day. I wish you the most wonderful Thanksgiving!



Friday, November 11, 2011

My meal ticket, or, how I got over myself and accepted help

Last night, our last meal was delivered. Some of you might not realize this, but EVERY SINGLE Monday through Thursday night since September 20, 2011, (plus some random and delicious off-calendar surprise meals!) a meal has been delivered to our home. And I'm not talking sacks of McDonald's cheeseburgers, I'm talking full-on, home-cooked, thought-through meals to serve our little family of three, and then some. Each night, Dave, Lilah or my mother-in-law Janet would go to the cooler on the back patio to bring in the goodies. The kindness bestowed upon us was simply amazing.

And to think, I hate to ask for help.

This trait of mine is surely borne of my experiences growing up, those as an adult with cancer and of my type-A personality. Why depend on others when you can just motor through and do it yourself? Why risk being a burden? Who KNOWS where that'll land you? I mean really - who gets cancer TWICE in 10 years? Avoiding being a pain-in-the-ass is practically a vocation of mine. I run from "needy." So when I realized that I was going to be unable to cook and care for my family for a while after surgery, well, my throat caught. And then I knew what I'd have to do.

Duh. Ask for help. Oy.

And it wasn't only meals, it was housekeeping and childcare, and shuttling my kid around, and shuttling me around, and picking up groceries, and and and and and. Imagine all the things you do all week and then imagine being able to do none. of. them. It's wild, really, especially for a doer like me.

But you know what? People wanted to help?! It is the craziest, most awe-inspiring thing, the most restore-your-faith-in-humanity moment when you realize that people are willingly giving of themselves and their time to get you out of a jam. No strings, no consequences, no payback. Just unadulterated good will.

"Thank you" seems like not enough to say to people who literally saved your rear at a desperate time in your life . . . but what else is there to say? I can't express fully the gratitude I feel for friends, family, and neighbors, some of whom I don't know well, but who stepped up and "did something" when they heard of my surgery. I really, truly, will never ever forget all those meals, all those gestures of love and kindness. They filled me up when I was feeling low . . . and kept me going once I started to get stronger.

I still have a way to go 'til I'm back on top, but I'm prepared and cleared to do my own, simple meal prep and transporting. And while my energy will flag easily for a while, I'll rev myself up with thoughts of all of you, and draw on all those good wishes to push forward to the finish line.

Thank you, all of you. We could not have done it without you. And while it's not over, with your help, we've certainly reached a milestone.



Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cleared for take off

Saw my plastic surgeon this morning and I've been cleared!

I can raise my arms above 90-degrees, push, pull, lift, do cartwheels, climb rock walls, cook (OMG, how I've missed cooking) . . . BUT . . . I need to "work up" to all this. She's "very very pleased" with how things look (although we may tweak again in several months, but we'll wait on that for now). I'm healing up well. The skin on Lefty has completely healed (that's the prior-irradiated side that was having issues). The intermittent swelling is normal and will come and go and I need to back off activity when I swell. How long will that go on? "Everyone's different," and "it could take months." Maddening, but good to know I'm within the range of "normal." Really, that's all I'm shooting for right now. I have time to work up to extraordinary.

I was, of course, pretty pumped up for this appointment, and as with most of these meetings, it was momentous for me, but not for the doc. We were together all of 7 minutes. She took "after" pictures. Her PA removed the stitch from the revision she did a month ago. I'm following up with her in 6 months - 6 MONTHS!? This is so crazy different from cancer Round I, where I saw someone every other day, it seemed. So while I was doing a happy Scooby hop in my mind, there were no high-fives, no hugs, no shrieks of joy, no grins of glee from anyone else. I made my next appointment for May (MAY?!) and away I went.

This is the way it always is. Anticlimactic. Another day's work for the doc, another hashmark in the "success" column. But when it's YOU, YOUR body and YOUR chance to return to life as you know it, it's momentous. So you gotta get out of there and celebrate.

How am I celebrating? Well, first I hit the MGH gift shop - seriously, a great store. Laugh all you want, I've gotten some wonderful things there. I stocked up on some stocking-stuffers and stationary. I paid up, bid my Valet Parking buddies farewell for another month (follow-up with breast surgeon mid-December), and hit the road. Now I'm home, completely wiped out.

Which brings me to the next point. Even when one's been "cleared," there is still a long way to go. In my mind, pre-op, I think I thought of a switch being flipped at the 6-8 week mark: She'd say "go ahead" and I'd be back to burpees in the basement. No ho-ho-ho, friends. This little body needs to ease back in. I think my greatest immediate obstacles are swelling and stamina. Got to keep that swelling at bay, and as we know, too much activity = puff-Sarah. And as for stamina - well, even morning rush-hour traffic knocked the stuffin' out of me. This is Boston. Driving is a blood-sport.

So where am I now? In bed, albeit with one of my favorite cozy OVER THE HEAD fleece PULLOVERS on. Toasty, ready to rest.

Which brings me to my last point - one I'll write more on later - but thank goodness I am under the care of my amazing PT. Now she can take over and run the show . . . she knows what's safe to do and what's worth waiting for. I see her tomorrow and am so excited for a new sheet of exercises to help me get back to buff. I simply cannot imagine being cut loose by the surgical staff and floating out here, wondering what to do next. I can't stress strongly enough how important I think it is for us post-surgical girls to get in with a specialized physical therapist. I'm already ahead of the game motion-wise, just after 2 weeks of therapy with Nancy. And you know how I love to be ahead of the game.

I'm at the "shuffling around the hospital floor" stage, exercise-wise . . . one foot gingerly in front of the other . . . taking it really slow. But the point is, I'm finally allowed to work my way back, to climb up out of the hole, up into the sunshine.

Can I get a hands-in-the-air hallelujah?? Wahoooooo!



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Happy cancerversary to me

Ten years ago today, I was diagnosed with a nasty little breast cancer. A grade 3, triple-positive (ER/PR, HER2) small-but-mighty killer. No positive nodes, but a question about vascular invasion. It was a miracle I was diagnosed (a whole 'nother post) and we were all scared. Heck, even my breast surgeon admitted last June that all my the docs were freaked out. They were really worried about my first few years out of treatment. Would I turn up with mets? A recurrence? I got the full battalion of treatments. Took almost a year. Then another year to feel like me again. And you know what?

I'm still here.

Six months ago, I would've told you I was planning a party to celebrate 10 years cancer-free. But that got yanked out from under me by creepy little cancer number 2. That little wimpy piece of junk has fouled up my fun and caused us to move to the finale, the full monty. The "this better be frickin' IT" surgery. It's been hard, physically and emotionally. But I'm doing great, all things considered, and I'm so thankful for what I've got. Another lease on life. A second, second chance. I'm bucking Darwin and I'm feeling lucky.

So while I'm not throwing myself the party I'd planned, I am indulging in a little party in my mind. 'Cause you know what? After I finally heal up from surgery, I've got more time. Time to love my wonderful husband. Time to mother my daughter, and, knock-wood, to see my baby grow up. Time to experience more of what life has to offer; from the mundane to the fantastic.

Not much in this life is certain. Since age 32, my life has been shaped by cancer. It changed the trajectory of my adult years. I don't define myself by my cancer experience, but it has affected every single aspect of my existence since it came on the scene. Surprisingly, in many ways, fabulously. Although I never, ever would say that having had cancer is a gift, I will tell you that my life is richer, more satisfying and more joyful post-cancer.

You never, ever know what's around the bend, my friends. Sometimes it's a monster. I am so very, very lucky to have been able to survive meeting a monster twice. My life's still a work in progress: I still don't know what my take-away from Round II is yet, but while I figure it out, I am guided by the same motto since November 5, 2001: No regrets.

Cheers to years, friends!



Friday, November 4, 2011


Drat. Being so good. Fruit under arms again. Maybe 'cause I stopped @ Whole Foods after PT and actually bought some fruit? Sigh.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On the road again

I did it. I drove, for realz. To Wellesley and home again for PT, ALL BY MYSELF. 40 minutes there, 40 minutes back (damn those Rt. 16 backups) and 45 minutes on the table. City driving, highway driving, executing turns and backing up. I'm pooped, but intact.